Understanding Your Test Scores

Q: What range of scores can you get on the GRE?

A: The scores on the Revised GRE don’t look like the old 200-800 scale of yore. Now the scores in math and verbal range from 130-170, innocuous numbers that were chosen perhaps to avoid all previous associations with any grade scores anywhere! A 150 in math and in verbal can be thought of as the national average, or the 50th percentile. (Actually from test to test there are minor variations in the national average of all test takers because, despite the ETS’ precision efforts at keeping the question “mix” at a predictable level of challenge, the tests vary a bit in their difficulty for the year’s test-takers).

A few points up or down can drastically change the percentile.

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The Corporate Package versus Mark’s Unique Style

The typical corporately-trained GRE prep instructor (of the expensive, packaged courses that are one of the myriad GRE, GMAT, SAT, etc. courses offered by the company) is often someone withsome form of classroom experience. Perhaps he/she was an English teacher, or even a special education instructor who never had seen a GRE test curriculum before. This person is run through a series of trainings, often online, from company books, in specific test strategies, specific questions and their answers, and specific examples organized in a specific way. Sometimes the person is trained well enough to get a reasonably high score on the GRE or got a high score some time ago on the GRE, and sometimes even this is not a criterion. The corporate teacher’s explanations are “by the corporate book” and must be delivered that way. Does this make that person a skilled test prep teacher? Mark hears often from his students about the corporately-appointed teacher of a course they paid big bucks for that was a disappointment – too boring, linear, unimaginative to keep their interest and to crack through, troubleshoot, their mistakes in an insightful way. Read more

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Beat Pre-Test Stress

First, Relaxation: A simple relaxation technique is to sit or lie quietly (relaxing amorphous music in the background is good) and begin by focusing on your breathing. Starting with the feet and ankles, then up the legs, the buttocks, back, shoulders, arms, neck, face, mouth, etc., tense each muscle then let go and invite it to relax. Breath is key. Breathe slowly and regularly and say “relax” with every exhalation. Let breaths start in the abdomen. Do this for at least five minutes. Then awaken your whole “sensorium” by imagining, in the room you will visualize doing your GRE study in, a sound (e.g., rustling papers), a physical sensation (e.g., softness of a chair on body), a smell (e.g., some flowers or fresh air), a taste (e.g., recent tooth brushing) and a sight (e.g., a picture on the wall). While called “visualization,” be present with all senses as much as possible. Read more

Young man with glasses working on his notebook, with a fresh cup of coffee nice and early in the morning, getting the business out of the way nice and early in the day

How to Book your GRE Test Time

The General GRE test itself is registered separately from Mark’s course. You can get information on aspects of the GRE General Test from the ETS Company at ETS.org/gre or gre.org. You can book a test on this site and take it at a Prometric Test Center closest to you. 1-800-GRE-CALL is yet another way to set up a booking. Read more

The Left and Right Brain in Testing


All of us have two major brain processors that work differently according to Nobel-prize-nominated research. We have a linear, rule-based, detail-oriented brain (usually the left lobe of the brain) that I call the “left brain” as a thinking capacity regardless of its organic location. The other is a holistic (view the whole picture), spatially-oriented (seeking to lay out ideas spatially), context-seeking lobe. Usually the right lobe, therefore I call it the “right brain” as a word-cue to this capacity that we all have to some degree. It’s seeing the forest (right lobe) versus seeing each tree (left lobe).

Everyone’s thinking style has a bias toward one or the other and our training often pushes us to trust that approach to decode and understand a subject area. Commonly, due to the way most math is taught by the rules, the linear left lobe is relied on for numerical work and, because of our multi-levels in meaning, metaphorical usages, and contextual references for figuring out words, the right lobe gets active in verbal-meaning work. The test makers, while not brain experts (easy to tell by the relatively unsophisticated test they have constructed, seduce us to be locked into one side of our brain in the questions, cutting off vital thought resources that can be applied to questions. Read more